Cuban authorities systematically violate citizens' civic freedoms

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released its annual report stating that Cuba “continues to systematically limit the human rights of its inhabitants”. In particular, human rights defenders and activists are harassed, threatened and detained. In the report documenting 2016 human rights abuses, the Commission cited an abrupt increase in arbitrary detentions as well as an increase in the number of violent arrests. According to the Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos, more than 6,000 arbitrary detentions were documented in the first half of 2016 alone.

Peaceful Assembly

Members of the Cuban civic movement - Damas de Blanco  (Ladies in White) - continue to face harassment and short-term detentions for participating in marches as part of the campaign - #TodosMarchamos 'We All March' - for greater freedom and respect for human rights in Cuba. According to the organisation's reports, on 23rd April 2017 around 60 members of Damas de Blanco from different provinces marched on the streets; 53 of the demonstrators were arrested and then later released. The following Sunday in April, police arrested 69 members for participating in the campaign's street marches.

Expression

Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) most recent report states that Cuba continues to be “Latin America’s worst media freedom violator”. Furthermore, RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index shows that Cuban journalists face arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, threats and smear campaign. The authorities further hinder their work by confiscating equipment and shutting down websites. 

Despite the challenges for Cuban journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has cited the promising potential of the growth and "spread of online reporting" used to combat the regime's repression of the media. According to CPJ, an increasing number of bloggers and news websites are working to find innovative ways to disseminate alternative perspectives and opinions to the public. However, they still face the risks and dangers of working in a severely restricted environment for freedom of expression. 

In a separate incident, police detained a man waving a U.S. flag during the May Day march in Havana. According to news reports, the man broke through a security blockade and ran ahead of the tens of thousands marching in the pro-government demonstration.